Beer here: Much a-brew in Wisconsin pubs, restaurants

Destination Kohler photo.

The Brewers Association, which represents 1,900 small and independent brewers nationwide, says most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery and that Wisconsin had 75 breweries at the end of 2011.

The total doesn’t include new breweries being planned in Algoma, Hales Corners, Madison, Mequon, Orfordville and Waldo.

The association also says the nation’s 2,126 breweries include 1,072 brewpubs, 922 microbreweries, 81 regional craft breweries and 51 non-craft breweries. Categorization depends upon level of beer production and the percentage sold onsite.

Within the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild are about 40 members, mega brewers such as Miller in Milwaukee to Madison’s new House of Brews, which bases a part of its sales on a community-supported brewery program, which means that subscribers pay in advance for a set amount of beer per year. See houseofbrewsmadison.com.

Why mention all of this? Many breweries are open for tours, tastings and – within the many brewpubs – meals. Now add a growing interest from other chefs to use beer in their menus.

Matching beer to one or more courses of a meal was a part of this month’s Kohler Food and Wine Experience, a major and annual gathering for food and wine enthusiasts. Spiaggia chef Tony Mantuano of Chicago led a beer-pairings luncheon. Other seminars paired beer with chocolates and other gourmet products or recipes.

Chef Paul Smitala of Kohler’s Blackwolf Run used beer from Sheboygan’s Three Sheeps Brewing Co. during a free cooking demo at the event. Here are his recipes.

PAELLA

1 pound chicken, diced
1 cup chorizo sausage
1 cup yellow onion, diced small
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
16 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
4 cups rice
1 cup beer
5 cups chicken stock
20 saffron threads*
16 shrimp
16 scallops
2 cups lobster meat
20 Little Neck clams
1/2 cup fresh peas

Heat oil in paella pan on high heat; brown chorizo sausage. Remove and reserve. Season chicken with salt and pepper; brown in paella pan. Remove and reserve.

In same pan, cook onion and garlic about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and rice. Mix until combined.

Pour in beer and chicken stock; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so rice cooks evenly. Add chicken, chorizo and saffron; mix well. Add peas, shrimp, clams, lobster and scallops; cook an additional 15 minutes without stirring. Garnish with flat leaf parsley.

*Saffron threads are sold at Wauwatosa-based Penzeys Spices and other spice specialty shops.

CARAMELIZED APPLE CREME BRULEE

For crème brulee:
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups sugar, separated
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Split vanilla bean down center and scrape out pulp with back of knife. Place cream, vanilla bean and pulp in saucepan; bring to a boil and remove from heat. Cover and let sit 10 minutes; remove vanilla bean.

Combine 1 cup sugar and egg yolks in medium bowl. Whisk together until light in color. Slowly incorporate cream mixture, stirring continually.

Divide mixture into 6 custard bowls. Place bowls in cake pan and add enough hot water to go halfway up the sides of bowls. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set up. Refrigerate until cool.

Just before serving, divide 1/2 cup sugar between the 6 bowls and torch sugar until it melts and forms a caramel-colored, brittle crust.

For caramelized apple:
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup Blackwheat Ale

Peel, core and dice apples; place in sauté pan with syrup, butter and beer. Cook on high heat about 2 minutes, until apples are caramelized. Place on top of crème brulee. Serve with spiced pecans.

SPICED PECANS

2 cups chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine in medium bowl all ingredients except granulated sugar and kosher salt. Mix until brown sugar is dissolved.

Coat baking dish with cooking spray. Spread pecan mix into dish and bake until nuts are browned and sticky. Remove from oven. Mix granulated sugar and salt; add hot pecans and toss to coat.

Erv’s Mug, 130 W. Ryan Rd., Oak Creek, presents monthly beer-pairing dinners. The next are Nov. 6 and Dec. 4. Craft beers are matched with four courses. Average cost for these events is $30, and seating is 5-8 p.m. For more about Erv’s, in business since 1979: ervsmug.com, 414-762-5010.

About 4,340 beers from 666 breweries in 75 categories were entered in this month’s Great American Beer Festival, and that was a 10 percent increase from 2011. The six 2012 Champion Breweries included Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co., Madison, which topped the brewpub category. The brewery also brought home a gold medal for its Uber Bock beer.

Six other Wisconsin breweries earned nine medals in the competition. They are New Glarus Brewing Co. (newglarusbrewing.com), New Glarus, gold for Hometown Blonde and silver for Staghorn Octoberfest; Stevens Point Brewery (pointbeer.com), Stevens Point, gold for Point Oktoberfest and Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale; Miller Brewing Co. (millercoors.com), Milwaukee, silver for Miller Lite and bronze for Mickey’s Malt Liquor; and Central Waters Brewing Co. (centralwaters.com), Amherst, gold for Fourteen Fourteen, a stout; Lakefront Brewery (lakefrontbrewing.com), Milwaukee, silver for Fixed Gear American Red Ale; and Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. (leinie.com), Chippewa Falls, silver for Summer Shandy.

All of these award winners welcome visitors; consult websites for days and hours.

The winningest state, based upon the number of entries, was Wyoming because 17.4 percent of its 46 entries won medals.